I did not like it.
Marlo and her mother are joining a circus. Her mom is going to be the cook. Marlo is thrilled and desperately wants to join the three Stardust girls, who all have special skills - acrobat, dog trainer, clown, bareback rider - but does she have a special skill?
This is one of the more challenging Branch titles, similar to Notebook of Doom, with illustrations on most pages but paragraphs of text. The sparkly, circus/gymnastics theme will attract quite a few readers, but the drawbacks of the book are such that I can't bring myself to purchase it, when there are other, similar titles and series available.
So, there are two diverse characters. Great! Um, not really. First of all, the blonde is, of course, the main character. The two non-white girls are both Asian - one is a trapeze artist and the other a bareback rider. The other white girl is a clown. With the troubling history of exotizing (is that a word?) Asian women, this is annoying at best.
This is definitely a wish-fulfillment story, but it was exasperating, to put it mildly. One of the Stardust girls isn't very happy about Marlo joining them but the story is one of those "just find your talent" and "you can always fit in and have new friends." But...the other three girls have spent years honing their skills and building their friendship. Marlo finds a talent and joins them in less than a week. That would piss me off if I was one of the other girls. Of course, in a story this short there's not a lot of time for character development, but it's awfully shallow.
Verdict: This is pure fluff, but it leaves a bad taste in your mouth. It's nice to see diverse characters included, however problematically, and some kids will like the world of the circus, but there are so many other better choices for beginning chapter books out there now that I'll pass on this one.
ISBN: 9780545757539; Published March 2015 by Scholastic; ARC provided by publisher at ALA Midwinter 2015